Every family has its special and joyous dates and holidays. The main holidays of the parish family of St. Seraphim Memorial Church in Sea Cliff, NY, are its patronal feasts. These are days when the Holy Church specially honors the memory of Venerable Seraphim, Wonderworker of Sarov: January 2/15, the day of his repose (1833), and July 19/August 1, the day of his glorification and the finding of his holy relics (1903). St Seraphim Church also specially honors May 17 and the feast of the Ascension of the Lord – the day of the restoration of full brotherly communion within the one Russian Orthodox Church. In addition, the parishioners and worshippers of St. Seraphim’s also triumphally celebrate the memory of the Holy Great-Martyr Panteleimon, Heavenly patron of a chapel in Kittatinny, NJ, that is attached to the parish.
On Saturday, August 1, the feast of St. Seraphim, the church’s patronal feast took place. Despite the fact that the next stage of quarantine relaxation was recently introduced, allowing the celebration of divine services while maintaining social distancing and other regulations, church capacity could not exceed 33% of premises, so some worshippers had to stand on the porch, in the courtyard, or in the refectory while watching the service on-screen. The festal service, officiated by Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America & New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, and co-served by Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan, the rector, and parish and visiting clergy, was distinguished by extraordinary splendor and profundity. A solemn and joyful atmosphere, as well as the jubilant singing of the parish choir under the direction of N.M. Miro, united all of the participants of the feast. Their faces radiated joy and peace. In the middle of the church were the parish’s prerevolutionary icon of St. Seraphim with a piece of his holy relics, and a wooden reliquary belonging personally to the First-Hierarch- with pieces of the stole, glove, and other items belonging to the celebrated saint.
Metropolitan Hilarion dedicated his sermon to the conversation of St. Seraphim about the main goal of the Christian life: the acquisition of the grace-filled gifts of the Holy Spirit. His Eminence concluded by congratulated those present on their patronal feast, and the rector of the church, Archpriest Serafim Gan, on his namesday.
The celebration ended with a traditional and bountifully prepared luncheon, offered in the refectory and the church courtyard by the parish sisterhood, headed by E.M. Mikheev, in compliance with sanitary standards and other regulations of the local authorities. At the festal reception, a film was shown dedicated to the 15th anniversary of Protodeacon Eugene Kallaur’s service to the Church, with video greetings from archpastors, clergy, his friends and acquaintances from Russia, Australia, Western Europe, and various pockets of the Russian Diaspora in the U.S. Gifts were then presented to Fr. Eugene, his Matushka Ekaterina, and guests of the feast. The aforementioned film will be available on social media in the near future.
The luncheon took place in an atmosphere of joy, spiritual unity, and solidarity. In his speech at the reception, His Grace, Bishop Nicholas, especially congratulated the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad on the feast day of this great saint of the Russian Church, those celebrating their namesday, and the parishioners and pilgrims with the patronal feast, expressing to all his deep gratitude for their joint prayers. In his deeply heartfelt speech, parish Protodeacon Paul Wolkow congratulated the parish rector on his namesday, presenting the latter with a gift from parishioners. Archpriests Andrei Sommer (dean of the Synodal Cathedral of the Sign in New York City and deputy chairman of the Synodal Department for Youth Affairs) and Alexandre Antchoutine (dean of the Long Island & Hudson Valley and Florida deaneries of the Eastern American Diocese), delivered warm greetings. At the end of the meal, the rector, expressing gratitude to the archpastors, the entire gathering of clergy, subdeacons, acolytes, the choir, the sisterhood, and participants in the celebration, wished everyone a peaceful spirit, mutual respect, patience for each other and brotherly love ‒ those virtues around the possessors of which "thousands will be saved." Briefly touching upon the memories of his forebears, Fr. Serafim spoke about the participation of one of them ‒ Archbishop Juvenaly (Kilin) ‒ in the celebrations of the unveiling of the relics of St. Seraphim of Sarov in long-ago 1903.
The radiant memory of the beloved saint has long continued to illumine the souls and hearts of the faithful. This day was a wonderful opportunity to remember how important it is to live in peace, and to always be in a state of preparation to thank God for the countless blessings He gives us in life. The life of Venerable Seraphim inspired the people to actively strive for salvation, to bear the joy of the Resurrected Christ with all of one’s life and all of one’s works, great and small. May the Lord aid us in this!